A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, March 21, 2021 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR ANCHOR (voice-over): We're on the ground at the Southern border.
(on camera): What change have you seen in the past couple months? Why did you leave Brazil?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of violence down there.
RADDATZ (voice-over): At the heart of an emerging crisis for the Biden presidency.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can say quite clearly, don't come. And while we're in the process of getting set up is to be able to apply for asylum in place.
RADDATZ (on camera): What more can he do?
GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R-AZ): He has got a big microphone. He needs to use it.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Facing a massive influx of migrants and unaccompanied minors, concerns about dire conditions at crowded facilities.
We take you on our journey along the border, in the air and on the ground, in Mexico and on this side of the wall.
(on camera): What do you think should have happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Collaboration.
RADDATZ: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas brings us the administration's perspective, the Republican response from Texas Representative Michael McCaul and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
Plus, the latest analysis from our team joining us in El Paso.
BIDEN: Hate can have no safe harbor in America.
RADDATZ: Heartbreak and outrage across the country, the Asian American community shaken and on edge. We discuss the road ahead with Representative Judy Chu.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, this is a special edition of "This Week" live from El Paso, Texas.
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
We join you this morning from El Paso, Texas -- Mexico just beyond that fence you see right behind me, so many on the other side desperate to cross the border, and so many here on U.S. soil calling for change, pressuring the Biden administration, loath to label this a crisis, even as the tide of migrants surges.
The number of unaccompanied children and teenagers in Border Patrol custody reaching record numbers, children forced to stay longer in overcrowded facilities, the media not allowed inside, the administration restricting access, despite promising transparency, citing COVID and privacy concerns.
The issue that at times plagued the previous administration now presenting a challenge to the Biden administration, one that shows no sign of abating anytime soon.
We will examine all the angles this morning.
Moments ago, I spoke with Biden's homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas.
But, first, despite the obstacles, we begin this morning with exclusive reporting along and above the border, speaking with stakeholders and those making the treacherous journey to the U.S.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Flying low and fast over the dust of Arizona's desert, the view of the Southern border is stark. Arizona's Department of Public Safety rangers, who provide search-and-rescue, show us miles of wall and gaps where construction was halted after Joe Biden took office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see where the construction ends right there.
RADDATZ: One of President Biden's first executive actions was to dismantle the Trump administration's immigration policies, tough policies that critics considered shameful.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We made a policy decision that that was the right, humane step to take.
RADDATZ: And while the numbers usually increase after the winter, devastating hurricanes in Central America last year may have prompted more to attempt the trip.
Customs and Border Protection show, overall, a nearly 30 percent increase last month from January, with 100,000 people attempting to cross the Southwest border. Nearly 30,000 of them were unaccompanied minors.
This group from Venezuela crossing the river near Del Rio, Texas, a small boy carried across on shoulders, his feet skimming the water, 50 miles away, a similar scene.
JON ANFINSEN, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PATROL FIELD AGENT: A group of four just crossed the river. Agents are here already. So, they made it across. They're going to go to a processing center. And we will see from there. This happens every day.
RADDATZ: The significant surge coming after President Biden ended Donald Trump's so-called remain-in-Mexico policy, requiring asylum seekers to wait there for their court proceedings.
Since then, many of those tent cities along the Mexican border have emptied out, as people start streaming in.
We were there when a bus of 56 asylum seekers arrived at Casa Alitas, a Catholic charity shelter in Tucson. Men, pregnant women, and children stepping off the bus with only what they could carry.
This father who asked we not show his face, traveled to Mexico from Brazil with his wife and three young kids before crossing the border.
(on camera): Would you have tried to do this when Donald Trump was president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely not. Definitely. We had the chance, you know, the same violence that's going on today was there last year. We used to watch the news, I definitely wouldn't do this.
RADDATZ: So did you come here because Joe Biden was elected president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically. Basically. The main thing was the violence in my country. And the second thing I think was Joe Biden. You know, it's like it lightened up my hope, you know what I mean?
(voice-over): Director Pena Lopez (ph) has seen a steady uptick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think right now we're going to be dealing with fixing years of policies that really inhibited people's rights to claim asylum and find a safe place to go.
RADDATZ (on camera): You've heard some call this a crisis right now. Is it a crisis?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crisis really started when we stopped supporting these people. This is just really a consequence of those decisions.
RADDATZ (voice-over): But for those charged with protecting border towns, the problem has gotten much worse in the past few months.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're losing all our resources.
RADDATZ (on camera): Why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the checkpoints. They're down because they have been diverted to other assignments. They have become child care and processing instead of securing the border.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Sheriff Mark Dannells (ph) drove us through Cochise County, Arizona.
(on camera): What change have you seen in the past couple of months?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big difference. The messaging has change. And the message is that this border is open for business and you can come across. And if you get across, there will be no consequences. That's the message we hear.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Arizona Governor Doug Ducey feels the same.
GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R), ARIZONA: To have 460 percent spike in illegal apprehensions, over 100,000 people in custody, 13,000 migrant children. This is a historic record for the agency. It has been the reverse of the Biden administration of the Trump policies, and it needs attention.
RADDATZ: We flew alongside the governor as he took an aerial tour of the border to see the situation for himself. He says Joe Biden is to blame.
(on camera): And what is it exactly? Is it the remain in Mexico? What has made the huge difference, or is it, as your sheriff says, it's the messaging?
DUCEY: Well, it's a combination of things. Of course, the Migrant Protection Protocols was a good policy, and it was working. It disincentivized people from taking this dangerous trip.
RADDATZ: You heard President Biden say the other day, don't come. What more can he do?
DUCEY: Well, he certainly can communicate more often, more clearly, and he should be talking to President Obrador. He has got a big microphone. He needs to use it appropriately.
RADDATZ (voice-over): But the Biden administration has turned back the majority of those crossing in the U.S., many distraught after believing they would find refuge in America.
We walked into Juarez, Mexico, a city wracked with violence, to find Ophelia (ph) and her 10-year-old son now headed back to Guatemala after being sent back to Mexico. The reason she risked everything?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Biden promised that we can cross with minors.
RADDATZ: She said she heard that because of President Biden, she would be welcome.
RADDATZ: And joining me now is the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas.
Good morning, Mr. Secretary. I want to start right there. We heard the sheriff say it, the governor say it, and the migrants I spoke to say it. They are coming across because they believe they will be welcomed under the Biden administration. You said yourself three weeks ago, we're not saying don't come, we're saying don't come now. President Biden had a stronger message later, but the messages are mixed at best, Mr. Secretary.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Martha, good morning. The message is quite clear, do not come. The border is closed. The border is secure. We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults under the CDC's authority under Title 42 of the United States Code because we are in the midst of a pandemic, and that is a public health imperative.
We are encouraging children not to come. Now is not the time to come. Do not come. The journey is dangerous.
We are building safe, orderly and humane ways to address the needs of vulnerable children. Do not come.
RADDATZ: I know you’re trying to get that message out now, but your team was also briefed by career professionals at DHS during the transition about the possibility of this crisis. You yourself say we are on pace to have one of the largest migrant surges in 20 years. Why were you not prepared for this?
MAYORKAS: Martha, let me let me be clear. We have seen large numbers of migration in the past. We know how to address it. We have a plan. We are executing on our plan and we will succeed. This is what we do.
But one thing is also clear, that it takes time. And why is what does it take time now? Why is it especially challenging and difficult now? Because the entire system under United States law that has been place throughout administrations of both parties was dismantled in its entirety by the Trump administration.
So, we are rebuilding the system as we address the needs of vulnerable children who arrived at our borders. And that is what it is all about. It’s about vulnerable children.
RADDATZ: But, Mr. Secretary, you knew that coming in.
It’s exactly about vulnerable children. You have approximately 5,200 children currently being held in adult border facilities, well over the 2019 peak, during the Trump administration. They’re only supposed to stay there for 72 hours, but they’ve been there for more than 10 days, 650 kids, and it’s getting worse.
Let me read you a tweet from Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who was with you on the trip down there. He said, Just left the border processing facility. Hundreds of kids packed into big open rooms. In a corner, I fought back tears as a 13 year old girl sobbed uncontrollably explaining thru a translator how terrified she was, having been separated from her grandmother and without her parents.
Murphy said these are facilities you wouldn’t want to put your child in for more than 10 minutes.
I know you say you have a plan now. But again, how did this happen? We knew there was a pandemic before. HHS has failed to do this before as well under Obama, under President Trump.
But how do you speed this up and how did this happen?
MAYORKAS: Martha, it takes time. We all know what happened that 13 year old in the prior administration. She was turned away and turned in to the desert of Mexico or sent back to the very country for which she fled, by reason of fear or prosecution.
We are addressing the needs of that child now. And when I say it takes time, I mean it because we’re dealing with the dismantled system. And we did not have the ordinary safe and just transition from one administration to another.
And so, we are executing on our plans. We have dispatched FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, to assist HHS in building additional capacity to address the needs of children and to move those children through to their sponsors in the United States to shelter them in a way that they deserve and that their needs require.
That is what we are doing. When people speak, well, you knew of this, plans aren’t made at 20,000 feet. Plans are contracts, personnel, policies, training, procedures, all of the elements of operations that were entirely dismantled. And taking care of the workforce that was not vaccinated and --
RADDATZ: Mr. Secretary, Mr. Secretary, I want to stop you there and I want to know, if you got this great plan, why would you not let the media in? I understand privacy concerns, but will you let them today or this week?
MAYORKAS: Martha, it is not only privacy concerns. Let me be clear, we’re in the midst of the pandemic. We’re talking about a crowded Border Patrol station where we are focused on operations.
At the same time, and let me assure you, that we are working on a plan to provide access so that people could see what is going on a Border Patrol station and I would encourage people to also see the Department of Health and Human Services facility where the children are sheltered and where they belong and where we are moving them to.
RADDATZ: You talk about the Trump administration and what was in place there. You did away with that. Wouldn't it have been better to have a plan before you did away with that?
MAYORKAS: We are executing the plan that we have. And let me share with you -- because we will succeed. And when we look back at this time, however difficult it has been, we will get through it, we will get through it successfully.
What we will all say is that we worked our way through a difficult time. We administered the laws as they were intended, and we lived up to our values and our principles as a nation. And that is what we are accomplishing. And that is not what was done in the prior administration.
It's tough, but we can do it. This is what we do, and we will accomplish our mission.
RADDATZ: And, Mr. Secretary, I want to turn to the terrible news this week from Atlanta, the deadly shootings which claimed eight lives, six of them Asian-Americans. There's been a terrible surge of violence and hatred.
What concrete steps are being taken to address this?
MAYORKAS: Martha, let me -- let me first say that our hearts and prayers are with the -- the victims of the tragic shootings in the -- in the surrounding areas of Atlanta. And we are very focused on the increase in hate crimes targeting the Asian-American Pacific islander community and many other groups.
We are very focused on domestic violent extremism. It is the single greatest terrorism-related threat that we face in our homeland.
We are focused on gathering intelligence and information and sharing it in actionable form with our state, local, tribal and territorial partners. We are working with the office of civil rights and civil liberties in addressing the challenges with the social media companies to ensure that we stop the violence that is born of ideologies of hate, and we are engaging with the community.
We held a very significant nationwide engagement with the Asian-American Pacific islander community last Friday. There are many things that we already have done and that we intend to do to address this very grave threat that we face in our country. And let me also echo the very powerful words of the president. Words do matter.
RADDATZ: Thank you very much for joining us this morning, Mr. Secretary. We appreciate it.
MAYORKAS: Thank you, Martha.
RADDATZ: Let's get a response now from Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Great to see you. Thank you for joining us here.
The administration has essentially, as you heard, blamed Trump policies for this.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R) TEXAS: No, I think they've created the crisis. He says he has a plan. I haven't seen a plan. They talk about humane conditions, humanitarian. They have created a humanitarian crisis down here at this border that you have seen now. And the reason why they are coming is because he says words do matter, and they do. The messaging is that if you want to come, you can stay.
When Mayorkas says we're not saying don't come at all, just don't come, very irresponsible rhetoric for a secretary of Homeland Security to say. And now, in his words, we have the greatest -- well, not crisis, because he won't call it that, in 20 years.
You know, in this sector alone, where I used to be a federal prosecutor, spiking 230 percent from last year, there is a direct cause and effect on the messaging. But then to do away, you know, politics aside, to do away with what was one of the most successful negotiated agreements with Mexico and Central America, to remain in Mexico and apply for political asylum, but now they've created this -- this crisis of children coming in. The traffickers are smart. Cartels are smart. They know our laws, policies And this started right after the election. And in the last two months we've seen a real surge.
RADDATZ: You -- you -- you talk about the messaging. Clearly what he was trying to do is have a stronger message and forget about what was said three weeks ago.
Is that enough? They're clearly starting to change that messaging now even though word has not gotten out to Mexico across the border.
MCCAUL: I think it's too little too late because the traffickers know they can take children from Central America, extort the families, exploit the children on the dangerous journey back to the United States. And now, you know, they're calling back home saying, hey, we got in.
So until this policy changes, I would urge the administration to revisit the migrant protection protocols.
This worked, and it was very effective.
RADDATZ: I want to stop you there, though. Human Rights Watch says, because of that policy, they have consistently found that migrants in Mexico are exposed to rape, kidnapping, extortion, assault and psychological trauma. Nearly half of those interviewed said Mexican police, immigration agents or criminal groups targeted them for extortion. How is that a good policy?
MCCAUL: Well, it's -- it's a good policy because it deterred. Deterrence is the key here. And, you know, Secretary Mayorkas knows better...
RADDATZ: Well, it deterred, but it left people in Mexico in pretty bad shape.
MCCAUL: Well, it also deterred a lot of them from leaving Central America. I talked to the ambassador from Guatemala. He said, you know, "My children were staying in my country. What I worry about now is I have a generation leaving my country. We want to keep them here, so we want to work on private investments in Central America, get to the root cause."
But this is -- this is -- it's a humanitarian crisis, when you see the children and the babies -- we're going back to separation of families, and the traffickers are separating the children from the families. And we're going back to catch-and-release. And we're going back to kids in cages all over again. And this is something that President Trump and his policies, with respect to Remain in Mexico and Central America, had stopped.
RADDATZ: So is the solution here to do what Donald Trump did and build more of the wall? You know Joe Biden is not going to do that. So...
RADDATZ: So what do you suggest happens right now, for your constituents in Texas especially?
MCCAUL: Well, I think -- I've always been a believer in technology. This stuff works in the high populated areas, to -- that's, you know, that's Juarez over here. We're in El Paso. But technology between these ports of entry and aviation assets that you saw the other day worked very effectively. And then we got to return to this political asylum issue and have them apply in country of origin or in Mexico.
If he changed it, he can call the program whatever he wants, brand it whatever he wants, but we've got to go back to this policy.
RADDATZ: And -- and you opposed a measure that just passed in the House that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers. Why shouldn't undocumented children who were brought to this country as children, no fault of their own, be given some rights towards citizenship?
MCCAUL: Well, in -- in my Secure America Act that we tried to pass when we had the majority had a legalization for the DACA kids, a legal path. We had a guest worker program as well. And unfortunately, immigration is obviously a very difficult topic.
But the point is, Martha, neither one of those bills addressed this problem. They have nothing to do with this, and they won't solve this problem. In fact, again going back to deterrence and messaging, it sends the exact wrong message.
RADDATZ: So what do you think the next few weeks, few months, will look like? He said that we have a plan and we'll look back on this and say everything was solved?
MCCAUL: Look, I -- I've known the border when I was chairman of Homeland Security. I was a federal prosecutor down here. Mayorkas knows better because he was, too. It's going to get worse. It's going to get a lot worse, springtime, summer, more and more come over.
The message is coming back that, "Hey, we've got a new president; come on in; we're open for business to the traffickers." And guess what? They're right here. And I predict a million people trying to get into this country by the summertime.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Congressman. Always great to see you. Thanks for welcoming us to Texas.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: Up next, Terry Moran, Matt Gutman and Laura Barron-Lopez join the powerhouse roundtable, here in El Paso, to separate fact from fiction on the immigration debate. Our special edition of "This Week" live from the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas continues in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was deeply concerned about the rhetoric around immigration.
Not only do I think immigrants renew our soul and bring a spirit to our country, but, also, it helps our economy. One of the problems is, immigration has become overly politicized. And it's really a rebuke of Congress' inability to come together to get something done on immigration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Former President George W. Bush weighing in on the immigration debate that dates back even beyond his presidency.
Let's discuss it all with our roundtable live with us in Texas, ABC news senior national correspondent Terry Moran, ABC news senior national correspondent -- senior -- I have these titles mixed up, Matt, so, so many -- chief national correspondent Matt Gutman and Politico White House correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez.
Thanks to you all.
Speaking of national correspondents, Matt, I want to start with you.
You have spent years covering the border. Put what's happening here in perspective, based on what you just heard as well, more than 5,000 unaccompanied minors now in adult facilities.
MATT GUTMAN, ABC NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is unprecedented, Martha. We have never seen numbers like these inside these border patrol facilities, which in some cases are jail-like, in most cases, are warehouse-like.
This is pretty much twice the number at the peak in 2018-'19, right? And what we're seeing in some of these facilities is overcrowding that almost boggles the mind.
In one facility, in Donna, Texas, it has a capacity of 250 beds. There are 3,900 kids inside there. We heard Secretary Mayorkas talking about the threat of COVID. I mean, can you imagine the kind of social distancing they have there? There is none.
And we're talking about children and teens. And, in many cases, you have 17-year-olds in the same rooms as 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds.
And activists with whom I'm talking to, immigration lawyers are saying this is untenable. They are extraordinarily concerned, not only of an outbreak of COVID, of the flu, but that somebody is going to get hurt.
And, Martha, this is something that Border Patrol and CBP officials up and down the line echo as well. Their greatest fear right now is that a child is going to die in their custody.
RADDATZ: And we certainly hope that doesn't happen.
Terry, what choice did Biden have, given that he wanted to do away with these policies of Donald Trump that he saw as cruel and xenophobic?
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think do it in a more orderly fashion, as, essentially, Secretary Mayorkas acknowledged, that they said they had a broken immigration system.
If you're going to do something that big, do a 180 -- President Biden did it in the first couple of days, almost performatively. He wanted to send a message to the American people that a more humane, a different kind of immigration policy was going to take place under his administration.
But he sent that message, as you pointed out, south of the border. This border right here is -- that marks the largest in person wage differential across any land border in the world. You can make a lot more money in the United States.
And as parts of that region fall into narco-terrorism and gangsterism, corruption, the pressure is tremendous. And to do that 180 without really any preparation, he owns this now. He owns it.
RADDATZ: And, Laura, he really does.
And should they have been more aware? I mean, they really seemed tone-deaf to the politics of this as well. You heard Mayorkas trying to do cleanup, I think, there, trying to send this strong message. But is it too late?
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, POLITICO: Well, that's what you see so many of the administration officials including Mayorkas, as well Roberta Jacobson, the southern border coordinator for the White House, they’re starting to change their tune. They're saying, we're not saying don't come. We’re saying, don't come like this ever, or come in the legal fashion.
But again, there are so many -- there's such a big influx, and I was talking to advocates here in El Paso yesterday, and they were saying that they feel as though beyond the rollback in Mexico which they felt as though went well according to the advocates and activists, beyond that they feel as if the White House doesn't have a plan in terms of how to address not just the children, but the adults and families that are coming over here.
And when migrants are being released into South Texas, or they're being transferred here to El Paso, that there isn't enough testing, COVID testing for them, that they aren't sure where they're supposed to go, and they really -- as Matt said, they feel like it's not a sustainable situation here.
RADDATZ: And, Matt, explain how you get a child who is unaccompanied as a border as one. It is little more complicated than that, and explain what the difference is now between separating these families and what happened under President Trump.
MATT GUTMAN, ABC NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You think of the notion of a toddler just strolling across the border, and it's something that boggles the mind, but that's not exactly what's happening, Martha. Parents aren't sending their kids over as 1 or 2-year-olds, right?
Typically, what will happen is that child will come with a guardian, a grandmother, somebody that child has come with, an aunt, and because they are not their parents, they will be separated, and that guardian can choose to either go back to Mexico with the child or say, will be listen. This child might have a better life than I was able to give it in the United States, and I might subject it to some trauma now, but maybe that's better in the long haul. So, that's one of the things we're seeing this.
There are really three pillars of this surge right now. There is, you know, climate change which is decimating Central America, these hurricanes we've just seen, and political and economic upheaval. Plus, the fact that people do think they're going to get a warmer welcome under President Trump, and it does differ from family separation, and assets of families were coming over together and the administration under President Trump was forcefully dividing them, and that is something that obviously Mayorkas and the Biden administration have tried to fix, and they are doing that.
RADDATZ: And, Terry, President Biden again said, don't come, to our George Stephanopoulos. He also said, we're in the process of getting set up, and it's not going to take a whole long time, to be able to apply for asylum in place. So don't leave your town or city or community.
That sounds a little bit like remain in Mexico.
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Essentially, it's to take the pressure off this border, and try to establish the kind of immigration policy and process that the majority of American people want. I mean, hearing former President Bush say it renews the soul of the country, I think that's probably a majority opinion in this country.
But you get disorder at the border, you get this kind of chaos and inhumanity, that's the quickest way to kill immigration reform. People want an orderly, secure, reliable border, and a generous immigration policy, and he's got neither right now.
RADDATZ: And, Laura, Republicans obviously are very critical of Joe Biden. That's no surprise. But here in Texas, there were eight heavily Latino counties that flipped to Trump, voted for Hillary Clinton before. They like what Trump did here.
BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, to a degree. There are a majority of Latinos in Texas did vote for President Biden, but there was noticeable change in where Latino voters voted in certain districts across South Texas, and that's also why there is so much urgency from the Biden administration to pass immigration reform, to show he sent a bill to congress.
Now, the big question though is that comprehensive immigration reform probably doesn't stand a chance in the Congress because of the 50/50 split Senate. And so, just this past week, we saw House Democrats passed narrower bills, a bill that would just address of a pathway of citizenship for Dreamers, address the pathway to citizenship for farm workers. But the likelihood of that actually even though smaller tailored bills getting votes in the Senate or having ten Republicans is very slim. So, that's going to be a really difficult road ahead for the administration.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks to all of you. Stay in place here.
The roundtable will be back in a moment for more, but first, the increasing assault on Asian-Americans in this country, and that horrific series of shootings in Atlanta. What's being done to confront that problem and that hatred in America? We'll have the very latest, next.
RADDATZ: America. We'll have the very latest, next.
RADDATZ: As violent surges against the Asian-American community, what will Congress do to address the growing threat? The chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Judy Chu joins me next.
Stay with us.
(UNKNOWN): Our community is bleeding. We are in pain. And for the last year, we've been screaming out for help.
(UNKNOWN): What we can say and should say clearly, unambiguously, is that blaming the AAPI community for a public health crisis is racist and wrong.
(UNKNOWN): Asian Americans must not be used as scapegoats in times of crisis. Lives are at stake.
RADDATZ: Three lawmakers, including our next guest, testifying before Congress about the threats against the Asian American Pacific Islander community following that heinous attack in Georgia that left eight dead, including six women of Asian descent.
That deadly rampage comes amid a surge in assaults on the nations AAPI community since the start of the COVID pandemic. There have been nearly 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents reported in the U.S. In just the first two months of 2021, there were over 500 incidents reported.
California Congresswoman Judy Chu was the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress, and she's currently serving as the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. And Congresswoman Chu joins us now.
Thank you for joining us.
Investigators say they haven't found concrete evidence that the gunman in Atlanta targeted these businesses and victims because of their ethnicities. But do you believe that this was a hate crime against Asian Americans and should be prosecuted as such?
CHU: First, my heart breaks for the eight victims. And as I read more about them, I see that they were hard-working. Many were mothers. One was as old as 74 years old. And, yes, I do strongly believe that this is a hate crime.
This is a 21-year-old white male who chose, as his first victim, a business that was called Young's Asian Massage. Then he drove for 27 miles to another spot where he hit two more Asian spas.
If his only problem was sex addiction, then he could have had his choice in those 27 miles of any place that he could have gone to. But, no, he specifically went to those Asian spas, where it was clear in all three places there would be many Asian women. And indeed, those were the majority of those that he shot and killed.
Now, I know the legal bar is high because they have to find somebody who heard him say that there was an anti-Asian slur expressed at the time. But I would say, look, these were places where people spoke another language. They may not have heard him. They may be dead. But in my mind and in the minds of many, this is an anti-Asian hate crime.
RADDATZ: You want Congress to act and have singled out two bills, the No Hate Act and the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Can you first explain for viewers what these bills would do and, secondly, are you confident they can get enough Republican support to become law?
CHU: Well, first of all, let me say that we have been working for a year to try to get some action done against these anti-Asian hate crimes. But President Trump doubled down with his rhetoric about the China virus and the Wuhan virus and even Kung Flu.
And it wasn't until President Biden came and issued that executive memorandum saying that the Asian community should be able to meet with the Department of Justice to provide solutions to these anti-Asian hate crimes that we were able to actually move forward.
And in fact, we had that meeting with the Department of Justice last week. We are also pushing for two...
RADDATZ: And you...
CHU: ... anti-Asian -- yes?
RADDATZ: Go ahead. Go ahead.
CHU: And we are also pushing for -- yeah, we're also pushing forward, of course, these two hate crime bills. One is called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. And this one would direct the Department of Justice to have somebody appointed to track these crimes and to make sure that they are going through the system and being prosecuted, and providing guidelines on these types of hate crimes, in terms of their prosecution.
The NO HATE Act would address our very flawed hate crimes system in this country. Our reporting is very flawed, because it relies on local law enforcement agencies to voluntarily provide such statistics. But 18 states don't even track such data. Three states don't even have a hate crime statute in the law.
So, hate crimes in this country are very undercounted. And, also, the NO HATE Act would provide resources for law enforcement to be able to put such a program together, and actually get training on how they deal with hate crimes, and provide oversight that would be done by the U.S. attorney general, who would report to Congress.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much, Congresswoman Chu. I know you and your colleagues are calling for this Friday to be a national day to speak out against Asian hate.
Up next: the very latest on the Biden administration's national vaccination efforts, plus its clashes with China and Russia this week.
The roundtable returns, as our special edition of "This Week" live from Texas continues.
RADDATZ: There's more roundtable just ahead.
We're back in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, we will hit 100 million doses our administration has administered, but I always said, that's just the floor. We will not stop until we beat this pandemic. This is a time for optimism, but it's not a time for relaxation. I need all Americans -- I need all of you to do your part.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: President Biden celebrating the U.S. clearing his goal of 100 million coronavirus shots well before the target date of the 100th day in office.
We're back now with the round table.
And, Terry, let's talk about -- let’s talk about COVID. He did meet that goal. Big accomplishment for this administration, or was the bar too low?
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a low bar, but it was an accomplishment for this administration and the previous one, no question that "Operation Warp Speed" under President Trump got the ball rolling and it would be nice perhaps for President Biden to say that.
But the wheels are turning faster now it feels like. There is a lot more supply. The problem is getting it down that last mile.
I was with the mobile vaccine unit in rural Maryland recently. They're ready. They're looking forward to get to that point to get it into people's arms. And then there's the question of update, and that's a presidential leadership role as well.
RADDATZ: And that's exactly right, Laura. Declaring victory a little too early. I know they're celebrating these 100 million shots, but this is far from over.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, there still is a long way to go, Martha. The administration is saying that they -- by the end of May, are hoping to have, you know, vaccines for every person in the U.S. who needs one, for every adult who needs one. So, that still is a goal post they have yet to meet, and again, a lot of this is around vaccine hesitancy. Communities throughout the country, whether they're black, brown or also Republicans who don't want to get the vaccine because of the fears sown by the prior president, by President Trump and others in the illegitimacy of Biden’s election.
But again, what they're trying to do is the mobile vans, trying to get vaccines into different pharmacies across the country. They're making sure through communication that hesitant communities are actually starting to get the vaccine and be more willing to get it.
RADDATZ: And, Matt, schools. You live in L.A., schools were closed for so long, and the CDC released new guidance that students only have to be 3 feet apart instead of 6 feet apart. Obviously, that means you can get more kids in there.
What difference will that make?
MATT GUTMAN, ABC NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, as a parent myself, I can tell you that most parents that have kids, age of our kids, this is the most important issue. So, this change to three feet is monumental. It means they can bring twice as many kids into the classroom. It means they likely don't have to stagger kids on separate days of the week.
The CDC saying this is all based on science, and as I’ve learned being in the field with nurses and doctors for a year working on COVID, they're shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues. If you’re wearing a mask and the other person is too, your chances of contracting the virus are extraordinarily minimal.
Now, adults still have to remain six feet apart. Kids will have to remain six feet apart in common areas, the auditoriums, cafeterias, but this is a major milestone that hopefully can get kids back in class. There is one hitch, and that is, especially the West Coast, the teachers unions are still demanding that six-foot distance, and they may not return to the classrooms under this new ruling.
RADDATZ: Got to get them back in there for sure.
Terry, I want to turn to foreign policy. Before you were our senior national correspondent, you were a foreign correspondent. I want to talk about a couple of important stories, and one of them was the war of words between the U.S. and Russia. It was sparked by comments President Biden made about Vladimir Putin to our George Stephanopoulos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: You said you know he doesn't have a soul.
BIDEN: I did say that to him, yes. And -- and his response was, we understand one another.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you now Vladimir Putin. You think he's a killer?
BIDEN: Uh-huh., I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: And Putin shot right back and challenged him to a live debate. I guess that's the new duel. That was quite an exchange though.
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. He also wished him good health with a smirk on his face.
Look you know, Putin understood he -- he's playing a weak hand with Russia. He has done nothing to advance the Russian economy beyond punching holes in the ground and taking stuff out. If you're a young person in Russia, your future is not that great. So there's an asymmetrical power. So he is essentially broken all the rules of world leadership. He kills people. And -- Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia kind of follow his lead. What Biden is trying to do is restore, you know, some kind of normality to world leadership and dismissing him like this in public, labeling him like that bugs Putin, but it helps establishes some kind of norms around what leaders can do.
RADDATZ: And, Laura, the remarks came as U.S. intelligence released a report that Putin indeed tried to help Donald Trump's re-election bid. But Biden is distancing himself from Trump's approach to Putin. Can these two leaders form a good relationship?
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big question, right, which is that right now it's very confrontational. The U.S. has taken a combative approach because, as Terry said, Biden is trying to make sure that the U.S. is reasserting its strength compared to the prior administration reasserting its moral authority. And so with that there's probably sanction -- more sanctions around the corner to response to that election meddling, to respond to the Solarwinds attack, to respond to the bounties on troops in Afghanistan. And so, right now, I think the -- the good will down the -- maybe down the road, maybe there could be work down the road, but right now it's looking like a much more aggressive approach.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Terry, we have just about a minute here, but it wasn't just the confrontation with Russia. The first face to face meeting with Chinese officials turned into a very public airing of grievances.
MORAN: It was real theater there as -- as Secretary of State Blinken said the United States wants to re-establish this rules-based international order, commitment to international institutions and China's kind of an outlaw on that and he got an earful back, and they went back and forth.
But I think one of the things that President Trump did is squandered American leadership in that rules-based order and commitment to international institutions because China's rule in -- in world order is basically, do what China says or we're coming after you. And there's a -- there's an advantage for America to distinguish itself from China that way. That's essentially what played out there. It might not have looked great, but China sent the unmistakable message that they want people to do what they want. And they don't, they're coming after you economically with their espionage in other ways.
And that's actually an opening for the United States to reassert that kind of moral leadership. As President Biden, once again, building on President Trump, is doing with Japan, India and Australia, that quad, trying to res-establish some a check on a Chinese power, which, right now, feel that America's in permanent decline and they are rising and rising and nothing's going to stop them.
RADDATZ: Always a complicated relationship. A lot to watch for.
Thanks for all of you for coming out to El Paso.
That's all for us today.
Thanks to the whole ABC News team that allowed us to broadcast from the border this morning, and thanks to all of you for watching. Have a good Sunday.